Bruins stay in groove
They power to 8th straight win
UNIONDALE, N.Y. - Entering last night’s game at Nassau Coliseum, the message from the Bruins coaching staff was to kick off their three-game road swing with a good start.
Clearly, the players were listening.
The Bruins did the job in the first period, when they poured in three pucks and chased Winthrop, Mass., native Rick DiPietro from the crease after 20 minutes. They added three more strikes in the third on backup netminder Anders Nilsson, called up from Bridgeport yesterday, to start their trip with a 6-0 pasting of the Islanders.
The Bruins have won eight straight games and are in the seventh place in the Eastern Conference. For the second time in two games against the Islanders, the Bruins put up a six-spot against the East’s worst team.
“I thought we had a good start in the first,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “We set the tone and got the early lead. That put us in a more comfortable position.’’
The winning goal, a net-mouth strike off the stick of Patrice Bergeron, came at 7:08 of the first. Appropriately, the play started in the defensive zone.
During the Bruins’ winning streak, their offense has come from their defense. Forwards have collapsed in front of the net. Defensemen have been prompt to shed pucks from their sticks and get them to their forwards with speed.
Prior to Bergeron’s goal, Joe Corvo won a puck battle against Blake Comeau behind the Bruins’ goal line. Corvo tapped a short pass to Tyler Seguin. Seguin dished to Dennis Seidenberg, who shuttled the puck forward to Brad Marchand. Marchand, standing along the left-side wall in the defensive zone, tapped the puck to Seguin.
From there, the kid took over.
Seguin punched the turbos, hurtled through the neutral zone, and blew the doors of Nino Niederreiter with an explosion of outside speed. Bergeron had no doubt Seguin would get a step on everybody.
“I’m going to the net,’’ Bergeron said. “I know he’s going to make that play.’’
As Bergeron sprinted toward the goal, Seguin dished the puck to his center. It was too easy for Bergeron to go upstairs on a helpless DiPietro to score the only goal the Bruins needed.
The Bruins kept pushing. DiPietro couldn’t do much to stop Bergeron’s shot. But DiPietro struggled for the rest of the first and was the primary culprit on Boston’s next two goals. While the Islanders were killing a penalty, DiPietro left his crease to play the puck.
DiPietro is one of the league’s best puck-handling goalies, but he misfired with his pass and put the puck on Nathan Horton’s tape. Horton took advantage of traffic in front and floated a long-distance wrister that sailed over DiPietro’s glove at 12:24.
DiPietro gave up his final goal at 18:45. The puck emerged from a net-front scrum and rolled onto Chris Kelly’s stick. Kelly rapped a slap shot from the left circle that beat DiPietro cleanly to give the Bruins a 3-0 lead.
DiPietro, the only varsity goalie standing amid injuries to Evgeni Nabokov (groin) and Al Montoya (hamstring), found himself on the bench for the rest of the night.
As shaky as DiPietro (10 saves) was in the first, his teammates were even worse. The Bruins outshot the Islanders, 13-2, in the first 20 minutes. The Bruins transitioned rapidly from defense to offense. They drove pucks deep and wore out the New York defensemen. They dominated the puck-possession game and allowed the Islanders zero offensive presence.
“We were moving it extremely well with great outlets,’’ Julien said of his team’s first-period performance. “We were skating well and taking pucks to the net. On that first goal, Tyler made a great play using his outside speed. Bergy went to the net hard. Horton and Kelly scored some big goals for us. I thought we were really on top of our game.’’
In the third, Andrew Ference, Kelly, and Zdeno Chara scored garbage-time goals. At the other end, Tim Thomas stopped 23 shots to record his 28th career shutout. Thomas made his best saves halfway through the third period, when he turned back Matt Martin and Jay Pandolfo on successive short-range shots.
But Thomas was just as sharp early in the game - a tough task given how sleepy the Islanders were offensively.
“I think experience helps with that,’’ Thomas said of staying on his toes amid a light workload. “That’s part of the battle on a night like tonight. I was just trying to do the best I could to be ready when they did get their chances. I knew they were going to get some. They’re too good of a team offensively.’’
The Bruins are now the hottest team in the NHL. The Rangers had their seven-game winning run halted last night by Montreal, the Bruins’ foe tomorrow.
But for all the wins and confidence that victories generate, the Bruins are still fighting to claim a place in the conference’s top eight. It’s an indication of how deep of a hole they dug themselves when they were the 15th-ranked team in the East.
“Somehow we’ve got to keep it going,’’ Julien said. “It doesn’t matter how many games we’ve won so far. We’re still hanging onto that last playoff spot or slipping out. We’ve got to get ourselves in better position than that.’’